God does not fit in an occupied heart.
St. John of the Cross
In a Peanuts cartoon strip Lucy asks Charlie Brown, “Do you know what your problem is Charlies Brown?” He gets angry and says “NO! And I don’t want to know!” before walking away from her. Lucy yells at him, “The problem with you, Charlie Brown, is you don’t want to know what the problem with you is.” Ignorance is not bliss. A person may choose not to listen, but the problem or hurt or burden remains. It is simply not faced. Charlie Brown might not want to hear the truth, but he carries it with him no matter how well he refuses to listen.
God’s word confronts any listener, including prophets. The word not only promises a time when the lamb lays down with the wolf or the lion eats hay like the ox with a child to lead them. God also confronts occupied filled with everything and everyone but Him. The prophet, even before he speaks to the people, is the first one confronted by God’s truth. A prophet must face it and allow it to change them, since hearts can easily be occupied with sin and fear leaving no space for God. Isaiah sees a vision of God in the Temple and realizes his sin as never before. He cries out that he is an unclean man living among an unclean people. Once Isaiah admits the truth, an angel touches his lips with a live coal that cleanses him. Elijah, out of fear of the king and queen of Israel, runs from his calling to confront apostasy in the nation. He is confronted by God on Mt. Horeb, why are you here and not in your nation speaking what I have commanded? The prophet admits that fear has filled his life. Only after that confession is Elijah renewed by God and resumes his work as a prophet. The truth is spoken, admitted by the listener of God’s word which leads to conversion.
John the Baptist is fierce and uncompromising messenger of the Lord. He does not water down God’s word to make it easier and more acceptable to the people. He speaks God’s truth in all its demands, power, and life. If God’s coming is to be welcomed and truly received then sin must be confronted. Hearts must be freed from the clutter of empty pursuits, titles of honor, and lifeless endeavors if people want to receive the promised Messiah. The uncompromising call of John is met with people who break from everyday life, go into the desert and are willing to listen, allowing themselves to be confronted by God’s word. Admitting the truth about themselves was probably not easy. But rather than walking away, the word enters their heart as they want to know what needs to rejected and what they need to change to receive the Promised One. This is the first step, probably the most important step, to cleaning out the clutter of an occupied heart in order to receive the Messiah who comes to them.
A tough message to hear during a time filled with decorations, shopping and Christmas T.V. specials? Yes! But a necessary one that leads to freedom. “For he rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help them.” (Psalm 72:12) During this second week spend real time with the Lord. Ask yourself, who or what occupies your heart? Do not rush through that question, but the help of the Holy Spirit, be honest and look deep. Then celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. Afterward, use a little time each night to look at your life and see if the Lord occupies your heart or has something else has begun to make its appearance.
St. John of the Cross wrote “God does not fit into an occupied heart.” John the Baptist calls us to admit and live that truth through conversion.